Losing Reality

I haven’t spent much time on this blog, or really much of anywhere talking about body image. Obviously I think about it: I don’t like my body and I never have. I have issues with my body that I take out on it through violence and starvation. But body image is simply not one of the aspects of my eating disorder that I find fruitful to write about, and generally when I bring it up in person I just get frustration and straight out disagreement from my audience. While I understand the impulse to tell me “YOU’RE WRONG” when I call myself ugly, there are times when I want to be able to express and explore my feelings about my body without being immediately shut down. This is one of those times. This exploration may not have a clear point, but I think it’s important to give voice to the thoughts and feelings that are a part of the disorder.

 

Lately my bad body image has been acting up quite badly. I’ve increased my food intake and put on a bit of weight. This means discomfort in my clothes, discomfort in the mirror, discomfort when I eat. But the worst part of it is that when I worry about my body image, I often find that I cannot accurately identify reality.

 

No, this does not mean that I hallucinate. I don’t see my body growing larger before my eyes, I can tell that I’m smaller than many people. However despite all this, I cannot understand what the truth is about my body: is it acceptable or not? Is it too skinny or not skinny enough? Is it healthy, or do I need to lose weight or gain weight? Now most people would find it fairly easy to figure out the answers to these questions by consulting a doctor, by looking at their weight in numbers, by assessing their current diet and activity level, and generally thinking about how they feel in their skin. However when I do these things I am left with strong evidence for mutually contradictory things. The scale tells me that my BMI is a certain number. That number is within the healthy range. Certain magazines tell me that the number is unacceptably high. My dietician tells me it’s acceptable but that I’m still not getting enough calories and need to increase my intake. My eyes and emotions tell me that my body is hideous and fat and horrible. My mind flicks between sources, trying to decide who is the most right, who I should believe, what combination of sources are right, where reality is.

 

It’s enough to leave anyone feeling as if they’ve completely lost their grip on reality. When that happens, all I can do is meltdown. When you don’t know what reality is, you don’t know how to proceed. You are left with no appropriate steps. When faced with a meal in this state, every choice feels wrong and every choice feels right. It leads me to a deep feeling of self-hatred that I cannot figure out even the most basic question of whether or not to put food in my mouth. The reason my body image drives me up the wall is not just because it’s bad. It’s easy when it’s just bad. What’s hard is when it disconnects me from any sort of rational thinking. For someone who prides themself on intelligence, skepticism, and clear-headedness, it destroys my concept of self.

 

It leaves me feeling like my concept of myself is a battleground between different messages of what’s appropriate and what’s not. I don’t want to live in a battleground. I don’t want to live in this body.

2 thoughts on “Losing Reality

  1. A “disconnect from (a/the) reality” is the most difficult aspect of any sort of body/image disorder, especially as it is the most critical aspect of them. What *is* the ideal or correct range in which a body supposed to exist? What weight should be given to physical health when its success can mean mental anguish? As a fellow sufferer/dealer/body in question, I don’t have the answers to these questions, only coping mechanisms that help me ignore the noise that surrounds me and exists within me. Sometimes that makes me feel weak – strength means success, not just coping, right? But other times being able to overcome the shit that my brain feels important, no matter how insignificant, makes me feel more powerful than anyone.

    One thing I’ve come to terms with is that I have to listen to my body in addition to my mind. We live in such a strangely dualist society that, at the end of the day, reverse willpower over all else. We’re basically conditioned from birth to ignore outside (read: physical) “distractions” lest we fall prey to their temptations, no matter how natural they may be. I have to constantly remind myself to integrate my physical needs into my mental picture of what it means to “feel good” (or calm, or at peace, or whatever). No, ignoring that I’m thirsty is not a positive feat, it only makes me feel shaky, dizzy, and crabby. If I get the impulse to exercise, I have to step back and think if it’s coming from my mind’s self-generated guilt or societally-imposed “desire” or from my physical body’s need to move around to feel “right”. It’s not a perfect system, given that wires obviously cross more than our mental categories of “mind” and “body” allow, but it’s a start.

  2. […] Losing Reality (taikonenfea.wordpress.com) […]

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